I'm a huge "Star Wars" fan. "The Empire Strikes Back" is my all-time favorite movie, I have "Star Wars" memorabilia at my desk at work, and I've been known to show up in costume for a "Star Wars" movie premiere. So even though the projected release date for Disney's new "Star Wars" movie is still more than a year away, to say that I'm already very excited — and very nervous — would be a little bit of an understatement.

Since many details about the film are still just speculation at this point, I've been trying to keep myself from over-analyzing casting rumors. There have been quite a few circulating so far: Are Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling being looked at for roles? Is Alex Pettyfer going to be playing Luke Skywalker's son? Will Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise their roles from the original trilogy? Will Benedict Cumberbatch be playing a Sith Lord or another villain? (J.J. Abrams, please confirm that particular rumor is true as soon as possible!) ;)

Each rumor has brought about a different reaction from fans, who often have strong opinions about who should — and shouldn't — play these roles. And potential "Star Wars" actors aren't the only ones catching flak lately. During the past few weeks, Warner Bros. took quite a bit of heat for its announcement that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman in the upcoming Superman/Batman movie, and fans of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series have already started an online petition asking the lead roles be recast, after the announcement Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson would be starring in the film version of the novel. The backlashes against these casting announcements have raised some interesting questions: Should fans give actors a chance to prove themselves before responding negatively to a casting choice? Should Hollywood pay more attention to fan reactions? And have the Internet and social media amplified the level of backlash that occurs?

There's no doubt the Internet has changed the way we communicate and interact with each other. While years ago the announcement Ben Affleck was going to be playing Batman may have generated conversations among friends and coworkers, now people have access to entertainment news websites, Facebook and Twitter to share opinions. News spreads more quickly, and more people have a platform to publicly share their responses to that news. I think the Internet can be a great place to discuss subjects people are passionate about, but unfortunately, sometimes it can do damage, as well.

While I must confess to complaining about some major casting announcements in the past, I try to be willing to give actors the benefit of the doubt. I remember being really skeptical about Christopher Nolan's decision to cast Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in "The Dark Knight Rises." I wasn't sure Hathaway was a good fit for Nolan's dark, gritty Batman films, but as it turned out, I couldn't have been more wrong. Hathaway turned in a performance that managed to be both playful and edgy, and even though I didn't think I'd feel this way, I now believe she was the perfect choice for the role.

I remember being skeptical about J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot too. Looking down the cast list, I wasn't sure Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the other actors could capture the essence of what made the original characters great. Turns out, I was wrong about that too, and I thought the young actors did a great job paying homage to the original TV series and bringing a fresh perspective to the characters. I remember being particularly skeptical about Simon Pegg, but ironically he's now one of my favorite actors, and thanks to "Star Trek," I've discovered some of his other films.

Casting announcements are tough because there's often so much hype surrounding a role (also amplified by the Internet) that there's almost inevitably a letdown after the announcement finally occurs. I'll admit to being a bit taken aback and at first a little disappointed by the announcement Ben Affleck will be playing Batman. I was most hoping for Karl Urban, but I'm definitely willing to give Affleck a chance. I think he has a good chance of playing well off Henry Cavill's Superman, and there are a lot worse casting choices the studio could have made.

Once a film has been released, I think the performances from a movie's cast are — and always should be — fair game for discussion/critique. But until then, maybe it's best to give the actors the benefit of the doubt.

So, what do you think? Are film fans sometimes too tough on movie studios' casting decisions before a film comes out, or are casting announcements fair game for discussion as soon as they're made? Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a casting choice? Have you ever been disappointed by a certain actor taking on a role?